Inspired by a few of my close friends and acquaintances. Thank you Amanda for letting me borrow your name.
I’ve been experimenting lately with creating scenarios and imagining what type of emotions would rationally suit that situation however, the tone of this conversation played out in my head as a sombre interaction, which was probably more a reflection of my own emotional state at the time of writing.
To set the scene, this conversation takes place between two friends as one of them prepares to move out of Cairns after completing his Accounting degree at JCU after years of struggle and sacrifice.
“Boomerangs are meant to come back…”
It left my hand before I had the chance to finish my sentence.
“…but only if you throw it right.”
“You’re an idiot…”, the words leaving his mouth easier then the boomerang leaving my hand.
The boomerang – made out of plastic, neon coloured – was obviously not made in Australia. It looked out of place crashing precariously into the sand, adding to yet another crater in the hour long battle of learning to throw a boomerang.
He sighed under his breath.
This was a waste of his time. His mind was already in Melbourne where he would move to in just under a week.
I hate quitting while learning, but this was one of those times when being a mate was more important then throwing a boomerang.
“So you sorted for Melbourne bro?”, I quizzed without sounding too concerned.
“I got a mate though. I’ll jus’ crash at ‘iz for a week ’till I figure shit out.”
His nonchalance working overtime to hide his obvious worry.
We’d been friends long enough for me to tell that he was worried. We were learning how to throw a bloody boomerang down at Yorkey’s Knob for gods sake! The last time we did something like this, he learnt his mom had lost her second part time job at Woolies. He postponed his Accounting degree to take up a part time job in a Palm Cove kitchen to help pay the bills.
That was a while ago now.
“Yeah. Good idea bro.”
What else would a mate say, especially to someone so driven to make a life for himself after seeing the trouble his mum had gone through. She made sure they stayed in the same house for the time he was at James Cook University.
They rented. He cooked. She drove. He caught the bus. He didn’t complain or blame anyone.
Sand particles dancing on a gust of wind became too acquainted with our eyes. A late afternoon storm was brewing out at sea.
“Bro, reckon we should go grab sushi aye”, presenting the suggestion more as a question then I probably should have.
We left Yorkey’s just as the first spit of precipitation made land fall. I’ll blame the cold front for those boomerangs not working.
He went back to complete his Bachelor of Accounting, taking it all in his stride. Numbers and order made sense to him. He could have been an engineer but he didn’t want to move to Townsville to the larger university campus, let alone Brisbane. He got the OP and the acceptance letters to prove it.
He made a habit of saying how the big towns were not for him. I figured he stayed because he wanted to be with his mom. He was young then. But just like youth, habits faded and new desires set in.
Desire came in the form of a girl named Amanda who made him desire the life in Cairns more then he cared to admit.
But desire to stay can quickly become desire to leave when young love, so big, shatters into a thousand pieces; it becomes a minefield of shards that pierce the heart at every turn.
Cairns is big enough not to forget but small enough to remember.
That was about six months ago when the the thing happened with him and Amanda. He shrugged it off and we haven’t talked about it since.
He got a job at a small tier accounting firm while in his last year of Accounting, trying his hands at everything from tax to management and business development. After eighteen months, rapid career progression followed, fuelled by necessity and his willingness to consume himself in that world.
His mom still worked two jobs to pay for their rent.
He mentioned in passing that a manager from one of the big four firms in Cairns had asked for his CV to keep on file. He was being watched. He could have been an engineer but he was now an accountant.
This world of numbers captured his desire more then Amanda did and she could not compete. I think she realised that too, which may have been part of it.
We squeezed into the only available booth at the Smithfield Sushi Train watching the train chug wearily by, enticing us with the standard selection, but nothing seemed terribly palatable.
“What’d ya’ want bro? My treat.”, I offered.
“Teriyaki Chicken and Salmon rolls sounds good”, he muttered, still watching the train move around the bend.
“s’that all bro?”, I said still grazing the menu, as if expecting more.
“Get me some shitty sake, Melbourne’ll have the good ones but I want some shitty Cairns sake.”, he grinned allowing a hint of a chuckle.
I ordered the sushi and sake while I resigned to make do with the sushi train.
He picked up the menu and scrolled it with his fingers, fixed it on something for a second too long then closed it. Set it down, picked up the chop sticks still in their white paper casing and began drawing invisible images on the tabletop.
I used the moment to fish out some pork katsu and salmon sushi searching for the chicken katsu.
Muted sounds of people talking and laughing followed by the staff thanking their customers made for easy listening.
Our silence was welcomed. We studied the blankness of our phones paying attention to our other – digital – lives.
The small firm had offered him a pay rise when his contract was up for renewal, but his heart had already decided on leaving. It didn’t help that he had ran into Amanda the week before that. It rained that week so we didn’t make it to the beach. Boomerangs don’t fly well in the rain, especially at Yorkey’s Knob.
I had tried to get him to reconsider, but he had a stubborn side. A coping mechanism with it’s dials set to flight rather then fight.
That was two months ago.
He was told that his job would be here for him if he wanted it. Small firms in regional cities invest a lot in young guns like him with the real risk of losing them in the blink of an eye.
This was our last week hanging out together.
The sake was shitty but heck it worked like a charm as he began telling me his plans without much prompting.
“Mum’s shitty at me for bailing from the job and all that…”, he stabbed the teriyaki chicken roll with his chopsticks showing his obvious inexperience with the ancient tool.
“…She’ll be alright though. I saved up a bit and gave her some to go on a holiday, she should get a smaller place when I’m down there.”
He’d always been good with money and saving, perhaps accounting was a better fit for him after all.
A smile cracked the cool demeanour.
“I’ve signed up to go into real estate though…” He gazed over to see if he’d jerked a reaction from me.
“…Six month course online. I’m going to get into real estate bro; make a killing; buy mom a house; then come up here and retire.”
He said it with such conviction that it left no room for doubt in my own mind, but the only words I could muster revealed my own small-mindedness.
– “What the fuck bro?!”.
Being in a small town had already made the big world seem like a difficult proposition to conquer in my own mind.
It was not unlike him to come up with definite choices like that, but this was something we’d only talked about in passing, never seriously. One of those ideas you have and laugh at but still think about at night.
He had conquered so much in his mind already. He was going through with it and that was that.
A pause descended a moment too long awaiting his next line of thought as the train chugged by, ceasing the moment to distract our attention.
“I still like it up here. But it’s too small…and she’s still here…”, lifting a chop stick to tap on his right temple.
“Yeah she is. And you know she’ll be in town for a while too….”, I interjected harshly, dismissing her from the conversation then finding my own pause, watching the end of the train leave us behind.
I hate dwelling on the past and I wasn’t about to start then.
He grinned and shrugged in agreement giving me time to continue.
“…but you should make it a goal to come back bro. Cairns is desperate for young blood. You already know people here and people are watching you”.
That was the point I had been trying to make for months now and I think he understood that but found his own way of admitting it.
“I know. As long as mom’s here, I’ll come back. But Melbourne man…”
I interrupted again.
“…Yeah it’s fucking cold aaand cooolllld“.
The shitty sake had set in.
We laughed and it rained.
Just like the boomerang, they all will come back….eventually.